clicking on this icon will always return you to this page

What's new

English Roses
Hyb. Bracteatas
Hyb. Musks
Hyb. Perpetuals
Hybrid Teas
Modern Shrubs
Moss Roses

Site Index


A History of the Hybrid Perpetual class of rose
by Brent C. Dickerson, author of 'The Old Rose Advisor' and 'The Old Rose Adventurer'. (copyright Brent C. Dickerson, 1999-2000)

I'd like to solicit those who grow Hybrid Perpetuals to offer here some commentary on them, as we don't hear much about that once-gloried immediate predecessor (along with true Teas) to the Hybrid Teas. What Hybrid Perpetuals do you grow? What do you like about them? (email the author if you wish to offer comments)

But first, I'd like to offer a few words on the group's obscure beginnings. The first several Hybrid Perpetuals have always been poorly known, even during those many years when Hybrid Perpetuals were as prominent as Hybrid Teas are today. The initial cultivars in the group, however, are of the highest interest as being foreshadowings of that massive group which finally began to jell with Laffay's release in 1837 of the HPs 'Princesse Helene' and 'Prince Albert', and which captured the full attention of rosarians with the release of his 'La Reine' in 1844. Obscure though they be, the early HPs are worthy of close scrutiny for what they tell us not only about the heritage of Hybrid Perpetuals, but also for the light which they shed on rose history and progress in general.

The 1820s and 1830s were decades of enormous enrichment and ferment in the rose world. To compare 1820, when the once-blooming "European" sorts (Gallicas, Damasks, Centifolias, etc.) were fully and overwhelmingly in control of the rose garden, with 1840, when the Bourbons, Chinas, Teas, and Hybrid Perpetuals had clearly swept the bulk of the old European roses out of the catalogs and out of the gardens, is to witness the most striking change in rose history. Even the often-cited introduction of the Pernetiana strain in 1900, beginning with 'Soleil d'Or', and permeating mainstream breeding by 1920 or 1930, is hardly comparable as a change, being primarily a revolution in coloration, with lesser ramifications in culture. In contrast, the changes experienced from 1820 to 1840 were on a broad front--in addition to an expansion of the color range, the new plants were completely different in appearance and nature from those which dominated the old rosariums, requiring differing care; the look of the flowers both in bud and fully open was different, bringing new concepts and ideals; and, most exciting, some remontancy of bloom became expected of all mainstream roses.

Hints of remontancy (the ability to rebloom) had been lurking in rosedom. Since Roman times, there had been the cultivar 'Bifera' which, according to its treatment, would bloom once or twice or thrice or four times a year. This Damask Perpetual had been supplemented by another, the 'Tous-les-Mois', in the late 1600s; and, as the years went on, a small number of additional Damask Perpetuals were introduced--none of them strikingly generous with their rebloom, and yet earning much love (as they still do) for what they did provide.

Between the middle of the 18th Century and 1830, some quite different reblooming roses were imported from the Orient. These were the China Roses and the Tea Roses. These races bloomed continuously during the warm seasons; their great disadvantage was their tenderness, rendering them conservatory or window-sill plants rather than garden plants. The reblooming Noisette roses, deriving originally from a cross between the China Rose and the Musk Rose, began to appear and diversify by 1815 (the first one appeared in America about 1800); but these too were regarded as of uncertain hardiness. The other important race of reblooming roses known to rosarians of the 1820s was the just-introduced Bourbon rose, which sprang it seems from a chance cross between the China Rose and the old 'Tous-les-Mois' on the Ile Bourbon in the Indian Ocean, where those two roses were used as hedging material. This, though promising, did not at first produce a satisfactory reblooming progeny, as was, in the 1820s, a limited phenomenon in rosedom; its primary use in that decade was as a co-parent with the old European roses in the production of the once-blooming race of Hybrid Bourbons. As breeding work continued with these Hybrid Bourbons, either breeding by selection from self-pollinated specimens, or from cross-pollination with other Hybrid Bourbons, or perhaps with Bourbons proper, or Chinas, or--most significantly--with the old Damask Perpetuals, reblooming roses began to appear among the crops.

In the 1830 supplement to his 1829 catalog, Prevost fils lists, among the Hybrid Chinas (a group of plants which, like the Hybrid Bourbons, inherit a once-blooming trait from their European ancestors), a release by Jean Laffay named 'Hybride Remontant a Bois Lisse'. There is no description--only this very descriptive name (which means "Reblooming Smooth-Wooded Hybrid"). This was the first Hybrid Perpetual.

The initial member of any category is of course at first placed into what turns out to be a "wrong" category--because the "right" one does not exist yet! It is hard to conceive of any difference between a reblooming Hybrid China and a Hybrid Perpetual. Those with an early-1830s mind-set could perhaps argue that a true early "Hybrid Perpetual" would have to have some degree of Damask Perpetual parentage, which the tag "Hybrid China" implies parentage of a "China x Old Once-Blooming European Rose" nature. This point, however, becomes an example of hairsplitting when one considers what the HP class took in as it developed. At any rate, research has not as yet turned up any further mention of this cultivar. Perhaps it was not very inspiring, and was withdrawn; perhaps it was very inspiring, and was at length offered under another name. Obscure though it was, it led the way, standing at the gateway of Modern Rosedom.


While Laffay worked near Paris, another locale in France was far from being a backwater in progressive rose breeding. Modeste Guerin of Angers had started out in the "old" style in 1824 and 1825 by introducing three now-extinct Damasks. By 1827, he had turned his attention to Chinas, of which he released three in that year (also extinct). The inevitable crossing between old stock and new must have already been taking place by then, as, in 1829, he introduced three Hybrid Chinas, one of which, 'Malton', was to have much repute as playing a part in the creation of the first HPs. It is debated whether what we see offered today as 'Malton' is the real thing; but the cultivar featured vigorous growth and blossoms which were variously reported as vermilion/red/crimson/velvet/cerise/scarlet, which ensured its popularity--even though a once-bloomer--for generations of rosarians.

Guerin, whose total oeuvre shows him always to have been at the frontier of rose progress, then planted seeds of his new cultivar. The result was the second HP, 'Gloire de Guerin', introduced in 1833. Its flowers have been described as being cherry, flesh pink, carmine, or purple--evidently varying even more than its variable parent. Unlike its parent of vigorous and lengthy growth, however, 'Gloire de Guerin' was moderate or short in growth. The most important thing, though, was that it showed that certain knack of reblooming, evidently "remembered" genetically from a China grandfather. Its blossoms--large, full, and widely-cupped--like those of its parent, were unlike those of its fellow rebloomers the Chinas and Teas. Its growth was less rangey than that of those other rebloomers, the then-few Bourbons and Noisettes (the dwarfish, China-like Bourbon 'Hermosa' would come out a year later), and more branching than that of the typical Damask Perpetuals. All in all, it was sui generis, particularly as 'Hybride Remontant a Bois Lisse' had already slipped into oblivion.

Meantime, back on the outskirts of Paris, a young Victor Verdier was emerging from tutelage under his horticulturist uncle Antoine Jacques. Jacques, gardener to the Duc d'Orleans at Neuilly-sur-Seine, had been among the first to receive the original Bourbon rose, and introduced the delightful series of *Rosa sempervirens* hybrids (such as 'Felicite et Perpetue') which remain to this day the most thorough breeding work done with that species. While breeding those Sempervirens hybrids, he continued to experiment with the original Bourbon. At length, in 1830, he introduced the Hybrid Bourbon 'Athalin'. The young Verdier sowed the seeds of 'Athalin', and the result was the third HP, 'Perpetuelle de Neuilly' of 1834, preclaiming its remontancy in its very name. Listen to Jacques describing it in 1834 [my translation]: "The bush is fairly vigorous; canes with green wood and short, scattered thorns. Leaves comprised of three or five oval-rounded dentate leaflets which are stiff, glabrous, and a beautiful green above, and pale and whitish beneath; leafstalk with slender, bristle-like prickles; ovary glabrous, elongate, conical; blossoms, one to four at the tip of the canes; corolla medium-sized, quite full, slightly cupped at the center, and held upright in a beautiful posture; bright carmine red, sometimes opening poorly at first bloom, but perfectly later; fragrance elegant and quite strong; freely remontant. This is an attractive obtention by Monsieur Verdier, grower at Neuilly-sur-Seine; and it will be released to commerce this Fall. It will certainly be sought out by fanciers, and it has a long bloom-time, a pretty coloration, and an elegant scent." The "glabrous, elongate, conical" ovary or eventual hip is worth noting as an indicator of its Damask Perpetual great-grandfather. Like the other first HPs, 'Perpetuelle de Neuilly' is apparently extinct; but it survived in people's memories and gardens long enough for the blossoms of a Mossy Remontant, 'Imperatrice Eugenie', just coming out twenty years later, to be likened to it (there's a plate of 'Imperatrice Eugenie' in my new book). 'Imperatrice Eugenie' is still obtainable, and thus can give us perhaps the best idea of this important early HP 'Perpetuelle de Neuilly'.

A third great center of French horticulture had not been idle. Working in Lyon, the obscure figure Plantier, a rosarian active from at least 1825 through 1873, had sold his vastly important Bourbon 'Gloire des Rosomanes' to the great rose-breeder and rose-nurseryman of the time, Jean-Pierre Vibert, who had introduced it in 1825. It is debatable whether Plantier's new Bourbon indeed derived from the original Bourbon coming from overseas or instead was Plantier's own cross between the 'Tous-les-Mois' and a red China. Certainly, had it derived from the original Bourbon, Plantier must have begun sowing that cultivar's seed immediately upon its appearance in France in 1821. The time required to produce a worthy cultivar, the unsatisfactory results often reported of seedlings from the original Bourbon, and the very distinct look of 'Gloire des Rosomanes', all suggest an origin independent of the original Bourbon. At any rate, we do not have any information on Plantier again until ten years later, in 1835, when he released three cultivars: an extinct Tea, the still-popular Hybrid Noisette 'Mme. Plantier' (often mis-called an Alba), and the fourth Hybrid Perpetual 'Reine de la Guillotiere' ("La Guillotiere" is a precinct of Lyon)--a cultivar nearly as obscure as its breeder. In his *Dictionnaire* of 1885, Singer tells us that it was "moderately vigorous; flower medium-sized, full; color, delicate pink." If accurate, this would seem to bring a little relief from the red coloration of the previous HPs. Singer, however, for all of his many virtues, can blunder; we fortunately have another description more nearly contemporaneous with the cultivar, that by William R. Prince in *Prince's Manual*: "A superb brilliant crimson flower, with glossy foliage, distinct, and a constant autumnal bloomer." It is unfortunate that we have no hint of the ancestry of this historically important cultivar; possibly we can read some Tea rose ancestry into the "glossy foliage," and the color we can imagine to perhaps owe something to his Bourbon 'Gloire des Rosomanes'.

Plantier's work had always made great use of Bourbons, and indeed his next recorded introductions, in 1837 and 1838, were both Bourbons. Plantier's fellow Lyonnais, Jean Sisley, brought forth in that same year of 1835 his own HP, 'Sisley', which resembled 'Gloire de Guerin' in color range: violet-amaranth/rosy crimson/light carmine. We are told that it was a "shy grower." Sisley evidently introduced few roses, being very active in horticulture in other ways. He was an organizer of the predecessor to the Lyon Horticultural Association, excelled in en masse propagation of the Tea rose in greenhouses, and developed the first double white zonal geranium. His high-water mark with the "old rosarian" of today, however, is probably his introduction in 1830 of Desprez' climbing Noisette, the beautiful 'Desprez a Fleur Jaune'. He was an early advocate of controlled cross-breeding, which he continued to champion throughout his life, and no doubt the fifth HP, 'Sisley', was a result of this.

Section 3.

The next four HPs we have to consider are more obscure yet. Here they are, alphabetically, with descriptions by either Singer, Prince, or W. Paul:

'Blanche de Lamoureaux' (Breeder unknown, date of release possibly prior to 1836). "Flower medium-sized, full; color, bright pink." (Singer)

'Psyche' (Miellez, possibly introduced prior to 1836). "Rosy pink, small, very pretty, dwarf" (Prince). "Rosy crimson, of medium size, full. Habit, branching; growth, dwarf" (Paul). Miellez, of course, was a major breeder and nurseryman located in Esquermes-les-Lille, France. His Tea rose 'Eliza Sauvage' has a certain notoriety; but he ensured himself of a place among the immortals in Horticulture by his introduction in 1851 of the superlative white Peony 'Festiva Maxima'. After 'Psyche', he evidently did not release another HP until 1845.

'Phoebus' (Breeder unknown, date released possibly 1837). "Flower large, very full, reflexing; color, bright pink." (Singer)

'Rochambeau' (Plantier, possibly introduced in the 1830s). "Not a very vigorous plant; flower large, full, well-formed; color, bright carmine." (Singer)

This, then, is what the HPs amounted to in 1837 when Laffay--who started it all with 'Hybride Remontant a Bois Lisse'--stood poised to provide the first major entries in the HP race to their becoming "everybody's roses" for the rest of the century. While the first seven years of Hybrid Perpetuals yielded a mere nine cultivars, the years 1837 through 1844 gave us no fewer than 81! The changes in rosedom which began in the 1820s and which were well underway in the early 1830s were entrenched by 1837. The European sorts were fast disappearing from gardens and catalogs in favor of the newer rebloomers. The Bourbons, balky parents at first, now began to come forth with new and desirable progeny. The Noisettes also increased in number and in diversity, being crossed with the Teas to good effect, on the model of 'Desprez a Fleur Jaune'. Indeed, the only breeder who still paid serious attention to developing the old European sorts was Vibert, who was to continue releasing dozens of increasingly refined new ones each year until he retired in 1850, obviously following the dictates of his own acute aesthetic sense rather than commercial considerations. Were a Rip Van Winkle rosarian of 1820 to finally awaken in 1840 and wander, blinking, rubbing his eyes, into the typical rosarium of the 1840s, he would find it virtually unrecognizable. Where, in his day, would have been legions of Gallicas, Damasks, Albas, Centifolias, Pimpinellifolias, Rubiginosas, and a few Damask Perpetuals--all in all, the most chaotic heterogeneity--he would now in the 1840s find instead row after row of new Bourbons, HPs, Chinas, Teas, Noisettes, and the various hybrids between them and the old sorts. While our Rip Van Winkle wanders, confused, up and down the rows, perhaps we will have time to continue the story of the early Hybrid Perpetuals into their second phase.

We saw above that the first HPs appeared seemingly independently within a few years of each other in three centers of French horticulture: the Paris area, Angers, and Lyon; and that the initial figures in their development were Laffay, Guerin, Victor Verdier, Plantier, and Sisley. There are also vague indications that Vibert, with connections in all of these cities, also did some experimentation with developing HPs in the early 1830s. Curiously, during this second phase (1837 through 1844), neither Guerin nor Sisley released any. Plantier released only two, and Verdier but one. The one rosarian who stands out with the greatest prominence during these years in the matter of HPs is Laffay, with 33 HP introductions. Vibert comes next with four, and then Desprez and Duval with three apiece; Lacharme and Plantier had two each; and then comes a crowd of names both familiar and otherwise with one each. What seems obvious from this is that Laffay was already well underway with his breeding program, and the others were more or less caught unawares and were trying their hands on new material.

We find quite a mix in these HPs of the second phase. Ideals for the group had not been formed. There were no preconceptions, yet, except that the cultivar should rebloom to some degree. Hybridizers were consequently offering whatever distinct entity would show up in their crops of seedlings, and no doubt waiting impatiently to see what would sell. Thus we have the small flowers of 'Ornement du Luxembourg', 'Elisa Balcombe', or 'Coquette de Montmorency'; the enormous blossoms of 'Baronne Prevost' or 'Melanie Cornu'; the clustered inflorescence of 'Augustine Mouchelet' or 'Rivers'; and all colors from purple ('Gloire d'Angers') through crimson ('Grande Capitaine'), red ('Reine de Lyon'), and rose ('Princesse Helene') to bright pink ('Princesse de Joinville'), light pink ('Amandine'), pale pink ('La Bouquetiere'), flesh ('Elisa Fenning'), white ('Helene Maret'), and even striped ('Octavie Tougard'); short plants ('Clementine Duval', 'Dr. Marx'), tall plants ('Clementine Seringe', 'Comtesse Tanneguy-Duchatel')--indeed, it is already true at this early stage what Francis Parkman wrote of the HPs much later: "As we look upon them, we survey a gorgeous chaos. Here are innumerable varieties of foliage and flower, perplexing us in our search for genealogies and relationships."

What are these "genealogies and relationships"? The first HP, 'Hybride Remontant a Bois Lisse', was evidently progeny of Hybrid China derivation--China x Old European Rose in some degree of generation; the second, 'Gloire de Guerin', also had Hybrid China ancestry; but the third, 'Perpetuelle de Neuilly', had Bourbon and Damask Perpetual forebears, with perhaps a touch of the Old European roses a generation or two back, Thus, even at the beginning, the HPs were quite a mix! This mixing, combining, and recombining continued into the second phase, accounting for the wide range of characteristics we have referred to above. There is little hard data--one perhaps reads of 'Gloire des Rosomanes', 'Malton', and the old Damask Perpetual 'Rose du Roi' playing some vague part; and a person could feel some confidence is opining that the very fecund Bourbon 'Mme. Desprez' contributed something to the process, along with whatever further fertile Hybrid Chinas, Hybrid Bourbons, Hybrid Noisettes, and Damask Perpetuals that could be found. Controlled cross-breeding, actively promoted by Sisley starting around 1830, had been practiced by some few breeders at least since the time of Descemet (active ca. 1800-1815), and possibly by Schwarzkopf in Hesse, Germany, another quarter-century back; but the wary practicioners of this art carefully guarded their "secrets pried from Nature" (as Vibert put it)--as they still do in many cases today.

At length, particularly with the advent of Laffay's 'La Reine' in 1844, hailed on all sides ("The Rose which dethrones the Centifolias!" cries a very significant quote of the time; the new regime had now finally replaced the old--a horticultural foretaste of what was to happen politically to much of Europe within the next few years), the lasting concept of what an HP should be all about began to jell: A large, many-petalled blossom on a plant of robust growth and constitution. The rise of organized rose shows about this time bolstered this concept, and it has remained in the popular mind to this day. The thousands of HPs which followed this second phase were measured against the ideals made manifest in 1844.

We will end adding that seven of the early HPs still exist, however rarely for some of them. They deserve to be sought out and widely grown both for their beauty and their historical value. They are, in chronological order, 'Duchesse de Sutherland' (Laffay, 1839), 'Ornement du Luxembourg' (Hardy, 1840), 'Princesse de Joinville' (Poncet/Victor Verdier, 1840), 'Baronne Prevost' (Desprez/Cochet, 1842), 'Dr. Marx' (Laffay, 1842), 'Louise Peyronny' (Lacharme, 1844), and 'La Reine' (Laffay, 1844).

Best Wishes, --BCD.

Web Site: The Old Rose Adventurer, by Brent C. Dickerson

This website made possible by a grant from the Uncommon Rose

There have been  hits on this page. WebCounter does the stats.
Original photographs and site content © Paul Barden 1996-2003